Nun's whispered story of Rwanda massacre: Outside the hospital, Hutu mobs butchered the Tutsis. Trapped inside, Sister Pilar Espelosin spoke by telephone to Angel Hernandez, of 'El Pais' in Madrid

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The Independent Online
'THEY HAVE BEEN killing our patients and we are ready to die next. One of our patients, with a bad machete wound in the head, they finished off without mercy. We almost saved a 14-year-old girl we had found dying in a ditch, with her head beaten in, but they came into the hospital grounds and beat her to death. We have children in the morgue.'

Pilar Espelosin, one of three Spanish nuns trapped in a hospital in the Rwandan town of Kibuye, has told El Pais in telephone conversations how Hutu tribesmen, apparently bandits, had come down from the mountains and entered the courtyard of the hospital run by the Missionaries of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, some 85 miles from the capital, Kigali.

The nuns, protecting 25 patients and refugees, had received absolution from a French priest and were ready to die themselves, she said.

The plight of the nuns and their dramatic account caused outrage in Spain after a Foreign Ministry official, asked by Spanish religious groups for help, replied: 'We're not here to rescue nuns lost in the jungle.' The Foreign Minister, Javier Solana, apologised yesterday for the remark and said the official would be reprimanded.

Sister Pilar said: ''Hundreds of them came down from the mountains with machetes, sticks, spears and arrows. They're killing children, women, men, old people. Most seem to be bandits taking advantage of the confusion. Now, they've gathered in our courtyard. There's total anarchy and there are no authorities. They've killed everyone and, since they know we have refugees inside, they're trying to finish them off, too.

'All we can do is watch them through the curtains to see if they've decided to come in and kill us. We're not going to open the door. If they want in, they'll have to break it down.' She said the armed men had already robbed the hospital of about pounds 500.

'They're hearing radio reports and think the Tutsi rebels are coming here. They seem to be killing all the Tutsis so that the rebels don't have support when they get here. The people doing this are not normal Hutus.

'Almost all the dead had fractured skulls. They're using long wooden mallets like the kind you see in museums . . . The chances of evacuation are very limited. It's five hours by car to Kigali and the road is very bad and full of bandits. Only a helicopter could get us out. But we're not leaving while we still have people to care for.'

Whispering into the telephone, Sister Pilar said her two Spanish colleagues and a Rwandan nurse had seen too much death and could not pull themselves together to speak on the phone. 'Our legs and hands are trembling. We can't sleep because they're stalking us. During the night, more wounded people got in. It was a woman with a little boy on her back and blood was pouring out of his ears. They had fractured his skull. We could do nothing for him. The mother had both arms and legs broken. They had killed the rest of her family.'